As I’ve explored the scifi genre over the last year and a half, I keep bumping into one franchise that I’ll admit was new to me: Armored Trooper VOTOMs. I’d first encountered the anime series when a friend had given me an old Takara kit from the series, the Brutishdog. I had a lot of fun building it, and decided to look for another kit from the series to follow it with.
A search of the Interwebs showed that both Bandai and Wave made kits, the former being in 1/20th scale, the latter in 1/35th scale. The look of this Scopedog Turbo Custom kit from Wave grabbed me… why I don’t know, really. Modelers can relate though, I think. Quite often we see a kit, and some undefinable quality to it grabs us. With a few clicks of the mouse, and my wallet a tad bit lighter, the little Scopedog was winging its way across the Pacific.
Catching Up On The Series
Not having any previous knowledge of the franchise, I decided to get on the Tubes of You and see if I could find some videos to watch. There seemed to be clips here and there, but nothing full. As I scrolled down the list, I found one called “The Last Red Shoulder“.
The plot was simple enough… a bad leader had sent some guys on an impossible mission, and after the war was over they gathered together again to hunt him down and exact revenge. The first part of the 50 minute OVA told some of the back story (though admittedly it seemed to assume prior familiarity), and showed how they were souping up their Armored VOTOMs for the mission.
Then it got weird.
What Were They Smoking?
At some point, the story focused on the folks who were the target. There was the bad general, a few bad henchmen, a very kind and sensitive girl, and some naked dude in a forest. At that point, I had trouble following the story.
The naked fellow was apparently some sort of genetic experiment, bred specifically to be a super pilot whose sole job in life was to kill one of the protagonists already heading their way. Of course, it wouldn’t be anime if there wasn’t some sort of angsty relationship.
Naked dude killed a bug, and then sensitive girl was trying to teach him not to kill. Evil henchman comes along and says “Naked man must kill”. (OK, maybe it was a bit more involved than that.) Some overly dramatic dialog ensues, in classic overdubbed English style, and I think the girl cried and naked man ran somewhere until someone got him some clothes to cover what we in the Southern part of the US call “nekkidness”.
(For the uninitiated, “naked” means you have no clothes on. “Nekkid” means you have no clothes on and you’re up to something – usually no good. 😉 )
About this time, the good guys show up, lots of stompy robot fighting ensues, intermixed with more angsty dialog, and in the end, everyone dies except our hero, and I think the girl. (I had started drifting in and out of sleep at this point…)
Cue the helicopter flying the survivors out, and the evil guy base blowing up, and I suppose at that point it was all over, with the exception of starting the writing on the next OVA.
Now, it was entertaining. Definitely very weird. But I’ve watched enough anime to get that it fit right in the style of dialog that is a staple of the genre.
What I did like was the cool stompy robots fighting. They had a unique way of moving. Almost hockey-like in form. Or maybe roller derby.
So You Mentioned A Model Was Actually Involved, Right?
When the kit arrived, I was quite ready to build it. The box was absolutely stuffed with sprues, too. For a kit that slightly shorter than a 1/144th HG Gunpla, it had loads of parts – as many as some Master Grade kits I’ve built.
All fit well, and went together easily. (All push fit too!) Breakdown of parts, and assembly, is fairly conventional for a mecha kit. Torso, waist, arms, legs, head, and accessories are all separate steps.
Nothing in the assembly was difficult, even with the high parts count. Fit was good. Not precise, mind you, but it was good. The instructions clearly show how it all goes together. If you build the kit, I would recommend paying close attention to the mold seams and nub marks. Even the slightest hint of bump in some areas can make the difference between a good, tight, close fit, or “hey, look at that gap!”
Also, on a few of the poly caps, there are mold seams inside the openings. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, to get some of the joints together. Cleanup is really easy though – just dig out the offending protuberance with a new #11 hobby blade. Do be careful, of course! Wouldn’t want to slice open you or the poly cap.
The kit also features loads of weapons. Real world thinking has to be thrown away, as I think it would be impossible from a physics standpoint for anything this size to carry the load it had. But that’s what makes it fun, right? It’s make-believe. (Sorry… had to be said. 😉 ) A shoulder mounted rocket pack, wrist mounted cannon, waist mounted machine gun, another rocket launcher on the waist, and a hand-held rifle make for a formidable looking model.
Deciding On A Strategy
I decided to treat the kit more like a miniature figure than an articulated Gunpla. Normally I’d have painted all the parts separately, and then snapped it all up. Because the kit does have a few seam lines and cracks to fill (it ain’t quite Bandai standard…), treating it as a mini would allow me to lock it into a fix posed, and not worry about accounting for sections hidden by its ability to move.
The few seams were given a coat of Mr. Surfacer 500, and either sanded down, or smoothed out with a cotton bud soaked in alcohol.
I then primed it in subassemblIes, and moved the various joints to get full coverage in the process. Priming was done with my favorite primer, Badger Stynylrez. I wanted a slightly darker gray base than their Gray Primer, so I mixed a bit of the Black Stynylrez with it. I must admit, my choice had little to do with modeling. While the black works better for later painting by providing some shadowing, it photographs poorly. I thought that perhaps a darker gray would get me some shadowing once the base colors were applied, yet still photograph well. I’m pleased enough with the results that I may do a custom mix of the stuff in a separate bottle for quick use.
My plan is to do a few “test poses” to decide what I like, and then once that is determined, lock most of the joints in place. I will keep the upper and lower sections separate, as that will make painting and weathering easier. And any weapons that can be left off until the very end will help in this regard too.
I’ll likely go with something close to canon colors, though I plan to weather it up pretty good. Let me restate that… I plan to weather it up a lot. Time will tell if it will be good. Or pretty good, even. 😉
Time For A VOTOM?
Overall, it’s been a fun little project so far, and I don’t anticipate that anything will change in that regard through the rest of the build. While the model is not especially large, it does have a heft and girth to it that makes it seem bigger than it actually is. And with all of that armament hanging off of it, it reminds me in some ways of a bipedal A-10.
If you’re looking for something very different to work on, consider giving this kit a go. While it has a lot of parts, none are fiddly, and assembly goes quickly.
Just be prepared if you watch “The Last Red Shoulder“. It’s definitely a bit odd. Still – it’s stompy robots fighting! Always a win! 🙂